Carbon Monoxide (CO) Poisoning

Another unfortunate death from Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning. Click here The needless death of fourteen year old Hannah Thomas-Jones,  occurred due to the use of a BBQ in a tent.

Most people are now aware of the risk of death from CO poisoning by faulty gas appliances due to recent high profile cases such as Zoe Anderson in Bath, and the publicity generated by organisations like http://www.co-gassafety.co.uk/  and http://www.covictim.org/  Unfortunately many people do not realise that CO is produced by any hydrocarbon fuel when burnt, e.g. coal, wood, oil, paper, petrol and gas. In actual fact a correctly maintained and working gas appliance is one of the safest heat producing appliances there is. The average number of deaths caused by gas appliances in the UK is around 5 per year, compare this to road accidents with a death rate of over 2000 or alcohol abuse with around 40000 per year to put the problem in pesrpective.

The Zoe Anderson case saw the installer of the boiler jailed for three years, after he failed to correctly assemble the flue. This case raises a number of unanswered questions. Why did this practically new boiler produce a sufficient amount of CO to cause death within 30 minutes? Most modern room sealed boilers will not function if the flue is incorrectly assembled. How did the CO get from the garage to the bathroom without being diluted? How many doctors have been jailed for similar mistakes? Their are approximately 1200 avoidable stillbirths in the UK each year, according to SANDS but how many medical staff have ever been jailed as a result?

I am not trying to defend the actions of the installer in the Zoe Anderson case, he made a mistake which he will have to live with for the rest of his life, but we should have a level playing field. If every person who made a mistake  which led to a death or serious accident were jailed we would have to double the number of prisons in the country.

The CO lobby would have us believe that fitting CO alrms in every property would save countless lives, whilst this measure would indeed save lives it would be at an astronomical cost per life saved, money which would be far better spent on measures such as better testing for prostate cancer (around 10000 deaths per year) and a CO alarm would not have saved poor Hannah.

The best defence against CO poisoning is common sense.

Ensure all heat producing appliances are correctly maintained by a qualified person (Gas Safe Register HEATAS or OFTEC)

Never block up air vents.

Never use a BBQ, gas lamp, generator, engine or any similar appliance in a confined space

Do not use cookers as space heating appliances

If you start to experience flue like symptoms, head aches and nausea, switch off any heat producing appliances, get into fresh air, call the emergency services and tell them you suspect CO poisoning.

Leave a Reply